Harry Burns Hutchins


History & Rhetoric 1872-1876, Law 1884-1887,

Dean of Law 1895-1909, President 1909-1920

HARRY BURNS HUTCHINS was born at Lisbon, New Hampshire, April 8, 1847, son of Carlton B. and nancy Walker (Merrill) Hutchins.  He received his preparation for college at the New Hampshire Conference Seminary at Tilton, and at the Vermont Conference Seminary at Newbury. At the age of nineteen he entered Wesleyan University, Middletown, but was not able to complete the year on account of failing health. For some months thereafter he made special studies in anatomy, physiology, and surgery at the University of Vermont and at Dartmouth College, under the direction of the late Dr. Alpheus B. Crosby. About that time his family removed to Michigan, and in the fall of 1867 he entered the State University, from which he was graduated Bachelor of Philosophy in 1871. As an undergraduate he stood in the front rank in his class, being chosen editor of "The Chronicle" in his Senior year, class orator, and finally Commencement speaker, the highest honor then conferred by the Faculty. For a year after graduation he was in charge of the public schools of Owosso, Michigan. This afforded him a point of view and a training that have proved of great service to him as a teacher and administrative officer at the University. In 1872 he returned to Ann Arbor as Instructor in History and Rhetoric, and the following year he was advanced to the rank of Assistant Professor. Three years later he decided to carry out a long-cherished desire and to enter upon the practice of the law, for which he had for some time been preparing himself. He accordingly resigned his position at the University and formed a partnership with his father-in-law, Thomas M. Crocker, under the firm name of Crocker & Hutchins, of Mount Clemens and Detroit. For eight years this relation remained unbroken, the firm doing a large business in the highest courts of the State. In 1883 he was nominated by the Republican party for Regent of the State University but failed of election. The following year he was recalled to the University as Jay Professor of Law. His success here was such that in 1887, when the trustees of Cornell University were seeking a man to organize a law department for that institution, the choice fell upon him, and he removed to Ithaca to take up that work. At the end of eight years the department had grown to be one of the leading law schools of the country. In 1895 he was recalled to the University of Michigan as Dean of the Department of Law, the largest institution of its class in the Union. During the absence of President Angell in Turkey in 1897-1898, he discharged the duties of Acting President of the University to the entire satisfaction of Regents and Faculties. In addition to his professional work he has given numerous addresses before educational and other learned bodies. He is a member of the New York Bar Association, the American Historical Association, and the Michigan Political Science Association. Under the appointment of the Supreme Court of Michigan he revised and annotated several volumes of the Supreme Court Reports. He has also published an American edition of Williams on Real Property, revised, annotated and adapted to American jurisdictions (1894); and Hutchins's Equity Cases (1900). He is a member of the Advisory Board of "The Michigan Law Review," and has made frequent contributions to its pages. In 1897 the University of Wisconsin conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws. On December 26, 1872, he was married to Mary Louise Crocker, of Mount Clemens, Michigan.

Burke A. Hinsdale and Isaac Newton Demmon, History of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1906) Page 268-269.


An Appreciation

By Henry M. Bates

Tappan Professor of Law and Dean of the Law School

The Michigan Alumnus, February 8, 1930, Page 327

Volume thirty-six, Number seventeen

       Time and perspective will serve only to make increasingly evident the importance and significance of the many and varied services of former President Harry Burns Hutchins to the University of Michigan. So quietly did he work and so modestly did he always bear himself, that though greatly beloved and honored in his lifetime, there was, nevertheless, inadequate appreciation of the strength and wisdom of his administration as Dean of the Law School and President of the University. By temperament as well as by reasoned conviction he abhorred the spectacular and questioned the wisdom of any move or change verging toward revolution. And yet he realized as clearly as anyone that life is change, and so he steadily, if quietly and cautiously, pressed continuously forward.

Mr. Hutchins was engaged at different times and places in many and somewhat varied pursuits, and yet it is impossible to survey his career without a realization of how wisely and harmoniously it was planned and how thoroughly and broadly it trained and developed him for the crowning achievements of his life. Born in New England, of sturdy ancestry, and receiving his early schooling in the strengthening and effective, if somewhat severe, discipline of a New England academy, he cast his lot in with that stream of immigration from New England and New York, which flowed so strongly to the westward through Ohio and into Michigan and other states to the west. Fortunate it was for this University that young Hutchins had observed that a majority of the leading textbooks used in the school, which he attended, were written by professors in the then young and rapidly rising University of Michigan. It was characteristic of him that he should have selected his Alma Mater upon a carefully formed judgment of the ability of its faculty; and so it was that its future President entered the University in 1867 and was graduated with the Class of 1871.

Mr. Hutchins always, and with reason, took satisfaction in the fact that after graduation from college he taught for one year at Owosso, and for a few years thereafter as an instructor and later an assistant professor of rhetoric in this University. To his study of literature and rhetoric during this period may be ascribed much of the precision and clarity of his oral and literary expression, throughout his life. It was during this period of teaching in the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts, as it was then known, that Mr. Hutchins became the instructor of William W. Cook and with him formed a friendship, which lasted throughout his life and was destined to have momentous consequences of good for the University. For it was Mr. Cook's confidence in the wisdom and unselfishness of his then young instructor, which led him later to select Mr. Hutchins as the medium of his communication with the University regarding his munificent gifts of the Martha Cook Building and the superb Lawyers Club buildings. Throughout the negotiations concerning these gifts and their development, Mr. Cook has relied confidently upon the sound judgment and disinterested advice of his friend and former instructor.

          Fortunate, too, was the fact that Mr. Hutchins after admission to the Bar in 1876 was engaged in the active practice of law for a period of eight years. During these years he laid the foundation for the practice and teaching of that field of learning which was to be his chief concern throughout most of his mature life. These years at the Bar trained the able young lawyer in affairs and in dealing with men, and contributed largely, no doubt, to the remarkable faculty which Mr. Hutchins constantly employed in making those adjustments between clashing interests and sometimes contending individuals which is no less important in the administration of an institution of learning than in the so-called active life of the world. Practicality of the right sort, and a common sense which amounted almost to genius, were characteristics of Mr. Hutchins throughout his active career. From 1884 to 1887 he was Professor of Law in this University and in the latter year went to Cornell University, where he was the dominant personality in the organization of the Cornell Law School, on whose faculty he remained until 1895, when he was called to and accepted the deanship of the Law School of this University.

          He came to the deanship admirably equipped by nature, education and experience to begin the difficult task of reorganizing and developing a school potentially strong but somewhat lacking in organization and progressive educational in methods, at that particular time.

Mr. Hutchins was a born organizer and the School was rapidly shaped into an efficient and well-managed institution. The course of study was lengthened from two to three years. The old formal lecture system was gradually abandoned and a well-balanced scheme, including the use of textbooks, of lectures, and the study of cases as illustrative material, was substituted. The old Law School Building, erected early in the 1860's, was entirely remodeled and enlarged, and the instruction in general was put upon a sound university basis. This involved the delicate and difficult task of gradually substituting legal scholars, devoting their lives to the teaching and study of law, for the part-time practitioner type of professor. Within the brief period of two years Dean Hutchins had so completely demonstrated his effectiveness as an administrator that when President Angell became our minister to Turkey, in 1897, Dean Hutchins, almost without discussion, was made Acting President of the University until President Angell's return the following year. Meantime, the Law School continued to grow and prosper under his administration, so that again it was almost inevitable that when President Angell retired in 1909, Mr. Hutchins was made Acting President, and a year later became President of the University, serving in that capacity until 1919.

Though his term as President of the University was to go through the severe ordeal caused by the Great War, and through the difficult period of readjustment immediate, following that frightful calamity, the decade of his administration was perhaps the most prosperous in the history of the University.  It was immediately apparent to the entire campus that though Mr. Hutchins' great interest had been in the law and in the development of the Law School, he was now President of the University and deeply interested in its every department and in all of its activities. Likewise, the campus early realized that the new President, though kindly and courteous, was equally firm and strong. Again, his talent for organizing manifested itself in an increased orderliness and efficiency in every, department. With genuine appreciation of the importance of the personnel of the faculty, President Hutchins addressed himself at once to securing important increases in the salary scale, and to the bringing of able new men to the various faculties.

          He exercised great wisdom in his dealing with the state legislature and the administration of Michigan's public affairs. From the start he avoided entangling alliances with political factions or cliques of any character, and the needs of the University were pressed strongly upon the executive and legislative departments of our government.  He gave of his time and strength freely in meeting the people in all parts of the state, and within a short time had won their confidence and secured their moral and material support for the

advancement of the University. Perhaps his greatest single service lay in his organizing of the alumni from coast to coast and in winning their affection and confidence.  This is not the place to recite the many and munificent gifts clearly attributable to Mr. Hutchins' contacts with, and influence over, alumni and former students. Reference has already been made to the generous gifts of Mr. William W. Cook, which are among the largest and most wisely planned in the history of American education.

           From the beginning of his administration, President Hutchins manifested a sympathetic understanding of the project, which was to result in the organization of the Michigan Union and its equipment with the best building of its kind in the country. Without his encouragement and help it would have been well nigh impossible to have carried that campaign to a successful conclusion.  In general it may be said that the University will for years to come be a better and greater University because of Mr. Hutchins' stimulation of alumni interest.

          Only those who were intimate with the affairs of University realize the many difficulties with which he had to contend and which he met with great success. It was not an easy thing to follow President Angell, admittedly one of the great American university presidents. President Angell's extraordinarily long service, his great abilities as administrator, educator and public speaker, and the rare charm of his personality, had made of him a figure of almost superhuman power and virtues, in the minds of our alumni and friends. It was scarcely possible for our constituency to apprise at his true merit any man who might succeed this great figure. Moreover, it seemed probable that Mr. Hutchins would have but a short administration, and he therefore was without some of that support which is given only to the leader who is expected to remain long in power. The difficulties caused by the Great War have already been suggested, but in spite of all these handicaps, it came gradually to be recognized that Michigan had another splendid executive.

          To those of us who knew Mr. Hutchins intimately there were revealed qualities of character and personality, which endeared him to us even more than did his achievements as an executive. Possessed of great strength and firmness when firmness was required, he was yet exceptionally gentle, courteous and modest. In his relationship to his illustrious predecessor he revealed these qualities in a degree possessed by few men of eminence. He refused to live in the official President's home, preferring that Doctor Angell should remain there. He sought Doctor Angell's counsel and advice and constantly subordinated himself at public meetings, preferring that Doctor Angell should receive the honors of the occasion. Doctor Angell was equally charming and self-effacing in his attitude to ward President Hutchins. In truth, the relationship between these two men was a very beautiful and unusual thing. Again, after his own retirement from the presidency Doctor Hutchins completely effaced himself, that his successor might be given every opportunity to win the affection and confidence of everyone connected with, or interested in, the University. With a delicacy very rare, especially among men who have been forced into the limelight, he avoided even the appearance of seeking to exercise any influence in the control of University affairs. The writer of this too hastily prepared appreciation gratefully acknowledges that he was the recipient of that same generosity of treatment from President Hutchins; for though President Hutchins naturally retained a deep interest in the Law School, never by word, look or sign, directly or indirectly, did he in any way interfere with, or attempt to influence the administration of the Law School, after he resigned its deanship. Only a man of genuine magnanimity could have dealt with the situation so unselfishly.

          For his simple and unaffected dignity, his courtesy, his fairness and his modesty, as well as for his high ability and strength and his fine achievements for the University, those of us who have known him well will always hold him in deep affection.


The Michigan Alumnus, October 1910, Page 17

By Edwin C. Goddard, ’89,99l

No more striking proof of perfect confidence and high regard could be afforded than the unanimous sense of relief with which the news of the appointment of Harry Burns Hutchins as permanent President of the University was welcomed by his colleagues of all Departments, with whom he had for so many years been closely associated. Verily, he is not one without honor in his own country.

The question of a successor to our venerable and highly honored retiring President, whose long service reaches back beyond the memory of most of the present generation of professors, and beyond the lives of all the students, has been of great concern to all. The University of Michigan is not used to new presidents; in all her history she has had but three, and she would confess to a good deal of perturbation at the thought of another; but so perfectly had Dr. Hutchins fitted the situation during the two periods, of one year each, when he had been temporarily called to the President's chair, that his fitness to be not merely the temporary but the permanent head of the Institution was recognized by all. Except for the natural inclination to select for the position a younger man, with the whole of his mature life before him, there can be little doubt that the election as permanent head would have fallen to President Hutchins at once upon President Angell's retirement. In spite of that consideration, the Regents, after a year of vain search, felt that it was wiser to call President Hutchins than to entrust the direction of affairs to any younger man who had been considered, and he was accordingly, in June 1910, elected as permanent President of the University. In his letter of acceptance, he definitely limited the term of his service to five years.

The salient facts in the life of the new President have been so often told, and are so typical of the men of this country who have achieved, that there is no occasion here for more than a general reference. Born in rock-ribbed New Hampshire; he, like many another, found through the University of Michigan his way to opportunity, and well has be, by long and efficient service, repaid that Institution for all she did for him. He affords one of the many examples of the wisdom, which the founders have shown in putting Michigan on such a cosmopolitan basis that the University attracts to the State young and promising men from every section of the country. After receiving his Ph.D. in 1871, he was Superintendent of Schools at Owosso, Michigan, Assistant Professor of History and Rhetoric in the University, a lawyer in active practice in Mt. Clemens, for eight years, and Professor of Law in the University of Michigan from 1884 to 1887; in the latter year he was called to the newly established Law School of Cornell University, where he remained until 1895, when his Alma Mater called him back to assume the Deanship of the Department of Law. His success as an administrator was as complete as had been his former success as a teacher, and no man has held more completely than he the confidence of the Board of Regents, as well as of his associates and students. His personal self-command and dignity, he imparted to the whole school, until the Department that had, rightly or wrongly, acquired a repute for wild disorder, now earned a name preeminent for order and studiousness, and acquired a department bearing that made "the dignity of the Department" a distinctive characterization of the Department of Law.

Under his leadership, the Department of Law has made great strides, not only by a marked increase in the amount and quality of work required for the LL.B., but also in the preliminary training necessary to enter upon a study of the Law. Of old law schools had no requirements. The theory was that the world might be trusted to sift the wheat from the chaff, the worthy and capable from the unworthy and unfit. To all who cared to use them, the old law school offered its opportunities, and those who came were free to use or neglect as they might choose. It might be necessary for Society to protect itself by requiring the physician to secure adequate training as a prerequisite to the right to experiment upon the human frame, but the lawyer, to whom is often entrusted property interests, without the protection of which life frequently seems hardly worth the living, might hang out his sign and lure in those he could, leaving them to find out by the result whether he was capable of safe-guarding the interests entrusted to his hands. As for the school of which he was head, Dean Hutchins determined to change all this, and so far as the Law School can contribute, it is now certain that lawyers receiving their degree from Michigan have been given a preliminary professional training which includes a thorough knowledge of the principles it is their business to apply, in safe-guarding the property and often the liberty and lives, of their clients.

It was his striking success in the Department of Law that caused the Regents to select Dean Hutchins as acting President during the year 1897-1898, when President Angell was American Minister to Turkey. The position was a delicate one. For the Head of one of the professional schools to be called to preside over the whole University was to invite friction and irritation if the acting President failed to bear well his part. With such consummate tact and marked ability did President Hutchins meet the situation, that he not only disarmed all criticism, but won universal approval, and in the spring of 1909, when the Regents determined to consider for a year the selection of a permanent President, no one but Dean Hutchins was thought of as acting President. Accepting the position with reluctance, he fulfilled its duties in such a manner as to make him not only the logical, but also apparently the inevitable selection as permanent head.

The causes of the success of Dean Hutchins are not hard to find, though no attempt will here be made to enumerate them all. He has been singularly simple and straightforward in his methods. Men are often tested by the enemies they have made. To few aggressive, efficient men is it given to avoid making many of them. President Hutchins seems to be an exception, for while he has been positive, out-spoken and, when necessary, severe, his tact and fair dealing have been such as to disarm enmity. Some administrators are habitually cautious and non-committal. They avoid trouble by taking care not to sail on troubled waters. Dean Hutchins earned a reputation for the opposite of this. His word has been "Yea-Yea" and Nay-Nay." He has promised or refused to promise in plain English. He has been positive and active, and not negative and passive. But so general has been the confidence inspired by his justice and fair dealing while Dean that his accession to the presidency was generally welcomed by men of all views and personal traits. He has won for himself a reputation as a man who stands for what has recently been called "the square deal."

In closing, a personal word may be excused as showing better than general statements the personal qualities of the new President. For ten years the writer has been privileged to enjoy with him, as Dean of the Department of Law, the closest official relations. In all that experience, not once did he fail in perfect courtesy, open frankness and kindly consideration.  Always positive, and even aggressive, he never, for even a moment, forgot to be a dignified gentleman. Strong and firm in his convictions, honest and vigorous in expressing them even when they were at variance with the views of others, he has had the courage to change his mind, and equally to hold fast to former opinions, as the occasion seemed to him to demand.  Modest and avoiding publicity standing for thorough business-like methods, he has indeed efficiently administered the duties of his office of Dean.  With the qualities he has shown in that office, it is not strange that he has inspired the governing Board of the University, its various Faculties, its alumni and students, with assurance for the whole University of progressive and satisfactory development under his leadership.


Last Rites for Dr. Hutchins Held

The Michigan Alumnus, February 8, 1930, Page 329

          On the clear cold afternoon of January 28, Harry Burns Hutchins was laid to rest by the side of his wife, Mary Crocker Hutchins, in Forest Hill cemetery, with only a few relatives and friends attending the ceremony. The Reverend Henry Lewis, of St. Andrews Episcopal Church read the service, and the University of Michigan Glee Club sang "Laudes atque Carmina," which was also sung by the Glee Club at the funeral of President James Burrill Angell, nearly fourteen years ago.

Many friends, townspeople, students and faculty members, as well as former students and colleagues of President Emeritus Hutchins, many of who had come long distances in order to be present at the last rites, attended the public funeral services, held before the interment, in St. Andrews Episcopal Church.

Special sections of the church were occupied by the honorary pallbearers, including President Alexander G. Ruthven, the Regents, Webster H. Pearce, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Treasurer Robert A. Campbell, Secretary Shirley W. Smith, Frank E. Robbins, Assistant to the President, Librarian William W. Bishop, Charles E. Sink, President of the University School of Music, all the deans of the various colleges, Deans Emeritus Mortimer E. Cooley, Allen S. Whitney, and W. B. Hinsdale. Member of the faculty of the Law School, of the organization known as “The Club," and of Catholepistemiad, were also honorary pallbearers.

Professors Jesse S. Reeves, of the Political Science Department, Moses Gomberg, Professor of Organic Chemistry, Evans Holbrook, of the faculty of the Law School, Lewis Gram, Professor of Civil Engineering, Charles B. Vibbert, Professor of Philosophy, and Henry C. Anderson, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, were the active pallbearers.

Out of town relatives who were in Ann Arbor for the funeral services were Mr. Harry Crocker Hutchins, the son of the late President Emeritus, with his wife and daughter, who lives in Scarsdale, New York; a sister, Mrs. Rufus Fleming; two nephews, Frederick and Carleton Hutchins; and Martin Crocker, brother of the late Mrs. Harry Burns Hutchins.

Prominent statesmen, politicians, scholars, and jurors throughout the country, as well as former students and colleagues and personal friends of Dr. Hutchins, telegraphed their condolences to the bereaved family, and their regrets at not being present at the last rites.


Harry Burns Hutchins is Memorialized

The Michigan Alumnus, December 6, Page 1930, Page 187

          A memorial service, as dignified and quiet in its character as Harry Burns Hutchins '71, LL.D. (Hon.) ’21, fifth President of the University of Michigan, was in his days as guide of the destinies of this great state University, served fittingly as a final tribute to the memory of Dr. Hutchins from his colleagues of the University Senate. Personal friends, former faculty associates and students of the late Dr. Hutchins gathered at Lydia Mendelssohn Theater on Nov. 28 to honor one of Michigan's great presidents.

          Remarkable qualities of personality and that rare combination of administrative, scholarly and academic leadership which brought to Dr. Hutchins such lasting fame to his Alma Mater such unbounded pride were the principal thoughts expressed by the four speakers who addressed the gathering.

Dr. Hutchins, whose sudden death last January was a shock to his many friends and associates, was the president most responsible for the efficient organization of the Michigan Alumni association which now publishes the MICHIGAN ALUMINUS and which supervises the activities of about one hundred and sixty graduate clubs scattered over civilized areas of the globe. It was during the early years of President Hutchins' administration that the Alumni Advisory Council was proposed, with the active support of former students in Chicago and stimulated by an article in THE ALUMNUS

In which Professor James Rowland Angell, '90, A. M. ‘91, now President of Yale University pointed out the fact that, because of lack of organization, the University was failing to get the possible benefits afforded by an alumni group.

          Dr. Hutchins, as Dean of the Law School and later as President of the University, was an influential and enthusiastic supporter of alumni activities and was characterized by speakers at the memorial exercises as an ideal alumnus.

Dr. Hutchins was the first Michigan student to become President of his Alma Mater. His record as a student and instructor at Ann Arbor, as a high school principal, as Dean of the Cornell Law School and finally as Dean of the regenerated Michigan Law School are mute evidence that he took full advantage of all that the University had to offer. Dr. Hutchins was President from 1910 to 1920, and during that period he accomplished much. A separately organized Graduate School, dormitories for women students, all improved health service, organization of alumni activities, increased appropriations for the University from the state legislature and large endowments from former students can be traced directly to his genius and consuming personality. As President his two-fold desire to improve intellectual opportunity in general and to lead his Alma Mater upward in collegiate circles was obvious to all. His orderly, conservative thought and his deliberate consideration of every problem, which confronted him brought general acceptance of his actions.

Of all this, and more, those gathered in respect for Dr. Hutchins were informed by Edwin Charles Goddard, '89, '99l, Professor of Law; Shirley W. Smith, '97, A.M. '00, Vice-President and Secretary of the University; Earl D. Babst, '93, '94l, A.M. (Hon.) '11, Chairman of the Board of American Sugar Refining Company, and William Oxley Thompson, LL. D. (Hon.) '15, President Emeritus of Ohio State University, who represented respectively the faculties, the administration, the alumni, and Dr. Hutchins' colleagues in the field of university administration.

In concluding the ceremony, President Alexander G. Ruthven, Ph. D. '06, announced that the next unit of the Law Quadrangle, to be a classroom building, would be named Hutchins Hall in lasting memory of Harry Burns Hutchins.